Long Beach, California
July 11, 2016
By Ambassador William A. Heidt
Long Beach has the United States’ largest population of Cambodian-Americans, estimated at 50,000 persons. I was extremely impressed by the pride they showed in their community and their close relationship with local elected officials. Mayor Robert Garcia expressed his strong support for Cambodiatown, the area of Long Beach where many Cambodian-Americans have established businesses. We met a terrific group of Cambodian-American university students who are committed to building stronger bridges to Cambodia and are organizing a national meeting of Cambodian-American student organizations next fall.
We met many committed small business owners during a morning walk around Cambodiatown, including the great Cambodian-American mechanics at Mike’s Auto Repair, who make “Sei”, the feathered, badminton-like birdies used in the classic Cambodian kicking game. Many Long Beach residents are already helping their home country through charity projects or investments in Cambodia’s economy.
Most of all, we were struck by the very deep ties between Long Beach and Cambodia. The Cambodian-American community in Long Beach cares deeply about their homeland, and wants to help it develop and become more democratic and prosperous. This was very clear during our visit to Wat Willow, the oldest and largest Cambodian temple in the United States. It is the heart of the Cambodian – American community in Long Beach, and we were overwhelmed by the warm reception we received.
We would like to thank the organizing committee for our visit, which did a wonderful job and included representatives from a range of social and political groups in Long Beach.